Monday, December 31, 2012

The Last Diary Entry of the Old Man

[Part 1 of the "Diary Entries" series]

“I write so that you may live.

“Where I am where you once were, the city is deaf, the voices of all the lonely strangers unheard like the prayers of the hopeless, but I dare whisper your name in this muteness, this inconsolable silence, the sound of nothing, indifference unequaled, for though the days are unkind I find my refuge here, where grief is the only companion to be had, a cold shade to shelter the soul from the eternal warmth of the sun, and in this place of solace “never” is the longest word to escape my lips, endless as the days and nights of waiting, for you were gone long before I came here, like the footprints of a ghost.

“Where I am where you once were, the city is perpetually blind, unmoved by the grace of summer and the benediction of rain, its wounds like yours undone with the power of closed eyes, scars suddenly unremembered, forgetfulness having turned them invisible, folding back beneath the shadows of time, but somewhere in this landscape of monochrome and grey I can still see you, a bright but shapeless red neither here nor there, because memory is cruel, finding colors where there are none, stalking the spirit in its unguarded moments of solitude in a room as big as this heart.

“Where I am where you once were, the city is callous, its flesh pummeled by iron bars and machines that bore through it, pouring liquid concrete over its earthly skin, filling its holes and cracks so that it can never feel again, like you, once wrapped in your mortal layers of numbness, shielding you from whatever it is that makes the heart grow fonder, even while the world is set afire by men and women who weave sands into verses, sunshine into prose, the morning mist into music, all into little pockets of nostalgia, giving the past the justice that it deserves, but failing nonetheless, because you were born beautiful and you have had your eyes set on forever, a future so bright it blinds all memory.

“I am where you once were, and you are where I will soon be. This is a city where the chase is unforgiving, where what has been said is forbidden to overflow into what will be, because the rules of life are as fixed as our place beneath the stars, and though our feet may take us elsewhere we only really move around, closer and farther but never away, for here I now find myself in this city where you once were, and you are where I will soon be. The past. Moving around, closer and farther but never away.

“You are everyday — an empty seat in the crowded bus I have never taken, a corner in my mind where the light of the sun will never shine, a calendar stuck in a day by the end of a lifetime, a gift unwrapped by the grandchildren we will never have, a face with a thousand unsaid names, a floating cloud with the weight of a million cycles of rain on dreamy afternoons, a penny jammed in the coin slot of a telephone booth where a hundred calls and conversations have been made and a hundred or more will never be, a shoe lace waiting to be tied by the hands I will never hold, a smudge on the lips I will never kiss.

“If I make it seem that I am talking to you, it is surely because I am. But I am not a surgeon, and so I cannot replace your heart with mine to make you understand, even for a pulse, how it feels to live with a heavy heart. Then as now, you are the reflection of the sunset in my eyes, and they will not close in permanence until I have chased the sun, because you are the center of my everything in every day, the sum of all my desires, beyond measure, ruling my life from the distance of a thousand light years, maybe more, and across this vast emptiness between us my voice yearns to travel, breaking the rules of physics if need be, for the laws of science will have to end if the chambers of the heart are to be finally heard, revealed in their naked truths with neither shame nor arrogance to cloth them from the mercy of your gaze. Until then, you remain a reflection of the same repeating sunset in my eyes even if the sun is never the same as yesterday and the dusks long gone.

“You are January lost in July, or December spending time in May. I am Monday skipping the rest of the week in pursuit of Sunday. You are February with only thirteen days, a pocket watch with nothing more than a hand for every second. I am a dead and exploded ventricle in the heart of this city, and yet here I am, scavenging through the arteries of roads in search of your faintest traces, signs that you were once here, alive, breathing the same air as I do but only forty years too late.”

Part 1 | 2

Friday, December 21, 2012

Life in a Straightjacket

1. Everything is automated, instant, in a cycle, and dead.

2. Machines automate the elections and the cheating that goes with them. It’s automatic politics, like instant coffee. There are vending machines for coffee, too, for those who stay awake late into the night until sunrise, especially those living across different time zones where the sun is never the same. People converse across distances through mobile phones, the internet in general, social networks in particular, online chat rooms notwithstanding. One can be an instant friend online, or an instant enemy, maybe an instant stalker. Old friendships and old romances are rekindled, set ablaze in less than three minutes, which is about the same time it takes to “cook” instant noodles. Kaldereta in a tin can is instant, and preparing it consumes less time than boiling water or rekindling romance. So is canned Adobo, or Mechado.

3. Are we still beholden to nostalgia? Do we really intend to preserve the past? Or have we simply run-out of new concepts, new ideas, and new experiences? We must be dry. If that is so, the old — far and almost entirely disconnected from us — is that which is new to us, an ocean to quench our thirst. The old is the new. We were born estranged from the past, with only anthologies to steer us to their direction, and we yearn for it. A strange but oddly familiar creature, this remnant of the bygone years. Strange, because the past is not a duplicate of the present, and neither is the present a mirror-image of the past. Oddly familiar, because the past still somehow resembles the now, and the now has certain shades of its predecessor.

4. The limbs of the old colonizers are gone, in their place their shadows, formless — and therefore more dangerous — but real. Vintage is back. Retro has returned, and the oxymoron of an idiom prevails: The King is dead! Dead! Long live the King!

5. Our memory depends on machines, these automatons that, by themselves, only have the power to archive but never to reminisce. We upload photos online after we have edited them with our virtual tools, as though the pictures will always be flawed in their raw format. The camera is digital, and so are the images they capture, and therefore suitable for virtually filing images that are, in essence, defined by the “byte,” that smallest unit that can reduce everything into a mere “file size.” The result: a clutter of bytes, a clutter of our little corner of the universe. But we create specific photo albums in our bid to be more Apollonian than Dionysian — in other words, in our effort to put things in order, to forestall confusion amid chaos.

6. It is interesting when someone says “My hard drive, my USB, still has this so-and-so ‘memory’ left.” Its emptiness, the complete absence of stored data in the physical device, is its largest possible memory pool. Sixteen gigabytes in the device is sixteen gigabytes without anything in it. Put a file in it and its memory is decreased. Its limit, therefore, is its memory. But the human memory expands when more is in it. It grows as it is used.

7. The dead walk among us. The need to remember has turned into an urgent, prized task. It has become a task, no longer a natural function of the mind. We buy planners, even the pricey ones, or earn them as rewards from our eager consumption of overrated coffees, and we cherish these objects intended to remind us of what has been said in the past about the future, like trysts, or job interviews, possibly vacations to elsewhere, so that we can meet the “plan.” The planner assumes the role of a capricious trophy, a valuable possession, giving us hope or assurance that we will remember, that we will not forget, as though our lives depend on it. We have grown fearful of surprises, of things immediate and unplanned, because they ruin our schedule, our prearranged routine. We have become inclined to settle in the comfort of predetermined events. Those things unforeseen, knocking on our doors with urgent haste, are met with panic, anxiety, distress, sometimes violence. “How can this be?” the ignorant asks in his argot, stupefied. “It wasn’t planned, it wasn’t written. How then am I supposed to remember, and thus act accordingly, to something that previously did not exist?” And in such tragic affairs we are somehow brought back to our humanity, of our being human, humbled, such unguarded offensives against our desire for ludicrous certainty. Suddenly, we realize that something was amiss, or remiss, and in the back of our minds there is the lingering thought that our plans are very vulnerable, weak, perennially at the mercy of the unknown. But these moments are fleeting, these episodes are mere lucid intervals, and we return among the dead no sooner than we are able to regain what is left of our sensibilities.

6. The accidents in life are no longer immaculate. Spontaneity is a fossil looked upon with utter disdain. Surprises are to be frowned upon, are prohibited to rear their heads, or are not given the permission to take form. Our lives revolve on a planner. The ink on it is sacred. The paper is holy. What is written has been written, cast in papyrus worth seventeen or eighteen cups of coffee. Its fate cannot be undone. We want the power of control, and we want it now more than ever.

5. We set goals but we refuse to consider margins for error. Error is for the weak, we say. But whoever said that we are eternally strong to begin with? We are human, and, therefore, we are bound to err. There are the accidents, and there are the direct but unanticipated consequences of our will. There will be errors, and there must be margins for them. Only the brave ones are crazy enough to give error its due space. That is why people are sometimes strange. The strange ones are the living.

4. Everything is dogma. Even the refusal to subscribe to one is guilty of the same accusation. “I do not subscribe to a dogma because I am a freethinker” is dogma, an ignorant yet proud one at that. These days, hipster is mainstream while mainstream is overrated, and anything that is overrated is protested against by shying away from it, or by destroying it within us like vaccine is to virus, in sum by becoming hipster. It’s a cycle of dogmas in a continuous flux, like the seasons that come and go.

3. It implies, however, that there is recognition, that we are able to recognize that this is hipster, or mainstream, perhaps overrated, or whatever label we ascribe them, and it is precisely this capacity to recognize that impels us to move from one phase to another, forward or backward. Yet the dead walk among us. The dead recognizes nothing, hears but does not listen, touches and is touched but does not feel, sees but does not envision, and is necessarily trapped in his own quagmire, unable to recognize, unable to move, paralyzed as it were, turning instead to the lure of instant gratification, or anything that takes less than three minutes to satiate our inadequacies and inefficiencies, no matter how partial and temporary, resolving to pursue the automation of all things, reconfiguring the old so that it will somehow look as good as new, so that the only practical need for memory is to help us to mechanically retrieve the past instead of compelling us to reminisce like human beings.

2. This is life in a straightjacket — automated, instant, in a cycle, and dead.

1. And there is nothing inside of it.

0. Except a corpse.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

An Ode to the Beautiful Ones

As all people are.

Be careful with the hearts you intend to break. Your alibi is their misfortune, a tragedy in their lives whatever name you give it. Silence, it seems, does not always mean “yes,” because your silence, your stubborn refusal to dignify them with a response, a phrase or a word perhaps, at least a sigh, is torture even to the flesh made almost unfeeling by a decade or so of solitary nostalgia, to those who find temporary refuge in imagining what might have been but never was and never will be in this lifetime, and to those who are left with no choice but to continue their relentless pursuit of the impossible. For these people who find desperation in their waking hours instead of you in their arms, you are real and you are impossible all the same. The contradiction of you is unsettling, and it makes you a challenge, a Gordian knot uncut by Occam’s razor, a riddle that must be brought to its logical conclusion.

You must understand that there is no freedom in nursing a broken heart. Those enslaved by the memory of perhaps three thousand days without the sun, as with the absence of light in total darkness, can testify that rejection cripples and it cripples too bad, like blindness in a world where its own beauty is supposedly the only consolation for the tired and weary, they who realize that this beauty is entirely beyond them, an unreachable, untouchable, unknowable source of infinite happiness that is gracious only to those who are bold enough to replace their pride with guilty compassion. These people, the ones who stand to suffer at the incredulity of your indifference, they were ready for the wounds but never the scars. It is not the torment of everyday living that stupefies them, for anything in the present is transitory. Rather, it is the very thought of having to endure the shadows in the years to come that frightens them, the future contained in the past — and the past contained in the future, like a bone trapped in the sands of time — is the bane that does so.

There is no doubt: your beauty is your license to kill. You wield it like a sharp razor against the throat of the newborn. You thrust it like a blade against the helpless chests of all conscripts of war. Your indomitable drive for greatness injures emotions. But you must understand that it is plain error, if not arrogance, to immolate a clutter of broken hearts as you tread your way to your dream, which is the only thing that can humble you and those who closely resemble you: people who have plotted a grand life ahead of them, a scheme that considers everyone else as disposable appendages that can be severed at whatever convenient excuse. In life as in any struggle, your bid for immortality is precarious, so you sacrifice those who tail you as ransom for the price of your vain optimism. Without them, however, you are a nonentity. You are beautiful, and yet you will be nothing. You owe these martyrs the spectacle of the admiration that you now relish.

Posturing flawlessness as if it is your habit is not the best way to stifle the illusion of hope. To exact perfection for yourself, which is already as enchanting and as disarming as the mere thought of you, is to claim more casualties than you can count. Your intention betrays you. You harp on the idea of perfection, purity notwithstanding, and yet you find it repulsive to find people gravitating to what you are doing and who you want to become. You want others to love you for who you really are, but you fail to recognize that you want to be someone else in the first place, someone so calculating and precise, someone like a saint or a god, or maybe someone who is not wont to err. That is tragic. It is pointless to be a diamond and expect people to find nothing before them but a piece of rock unworthy of adulation. Perfection comes with a heavy bargain.

Be gentle with the hearts you intend to break. The people whose spirits you have ruined, they will grow old and die with the heaviest of hearts. The earth as we know it, the rubble and gravel six feet beneath it, is home to a million and more hopeless romantics buried with their unspoken frustrations that have forever become what they are — unspoken. They are victims of their own muteness, their silence having rewarded them with their demise. But perhaps, for at least once in their lives and under the furtive glances of strangers and friends alike, they secretly hoped that it was their hands you held, that it was your embrace giving them warmth on a cold and desolate evening when the world becomes a little less forgiving. As they have lost everything, they can only afford the cheap price of wishful thinking, paying with what little is left of their courage tucked deep in their hearts.

But above all, you will become a song on their lips, a song with neither verse nor chorus but a song nonetheless, an incomplete poem at the tip of their pens, an unfinished painting at the mercy of their fingers, a prosaic drivel on public walls, or a short breather for these exiles in a decaying city, a place where regret tastes like twenty shots of rum after the first three bottles of beer. You will be hated, but you will be hated because you are loved. Because deception demands to let obvious truths be what they are, for anything that is too apparent is rarely noticed, you go on with your life as though there are no songs to hear, no poems to read, no paintings to view, only you, all five feet and four inches of who you are in the eyes of your beholders. You will try to maintain your clout, and it will be a daily struggle with no end in sight. It will kill you as much as it will kill them.

So be careful, be gentle with the hearts you intend to break.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


…is a lie that makes life bearable.

Wait. Wait for its first sign beyond the bend in the road. Wait on the sidewalk but avoid the gutter. The narrow asphalt lanes, now empty of traffic, are split equally by a line, a demarcation forever caught in the middle for the benefit of those who meander closer to the precipice. As there is only the route to anywhere, nobody is supposed to confuse his sense of direction here, so wait alone. In this solitude, silence is inebriating, a balm for the badly wounded spirit. Wait beneath the wires and cables that have eased countless lost souls to a place where the stars are more visible, where the eyes find comfort by gazing at something that is never there, and where the grassy field is a sanctuary that recognizes no sorrow, a destination of refuge and exile away from the city clutter. The Sunday sunset begins to breach the dusk. Wait for the approach of the light from remote headlamps that struggle to shine their way to where you are, a spark that must necessarily intensify if it intends to move closer, to parry the dark and cleave through the extending shadows of nightfall hundreds of feet into the mountains. Breathe the mist before you. Expectations are high, the suspense almost unbearable. But the evening is young, and so are you. Wait to outgrow yourself. Wait for the stripe of light that will separate the past from the present and sever tomorrow from today. Wait it out. It will come.

While waiting, wedge your thoughts between now and never. Settle between here and there. The world is a fine place for indecision, which is why procrastination is practical, if not fashionable. For once, let the world take care of itself. It is more than a billion years older than your forebears. Never assume that someone so young will have to look after something so ancient. Without you, the world and its troubles can manage on their own. Do not beguile yourself with the consolation that you have inherited the responsibilities of those who have now gone to their graves. You are not the heir of these kings of abject misery. History is never kind to those who dwell on the shortcomings of the past, on bygone catastrophes left undone, which is why the future will never take the shape of an exhumed carcass. Thus it must be told: your task is to live. Your job is your life. No one else will belabor it for you. Start to think of yourself. 

Yesterday you were the sky, an infinite bed where the sun rolls and bleeds itself yellow to orange and all the colors that fade at the behest of the velvet night until the sun reclaims its throne on the eastern horizon. You are an immeasurable muteness enough to silence the world and stop it from its axis. Yours is the domain of the possible, its space the fury of a raging gale can never fill, not even the tempests summoned by the elements that descend upon mortals when life is already uncertain. Look up and trace your silver lining with your fingers. Host the clouds, these wayward and homeless creatures of the horizon, travelers that roam the heavens in their constant search for their reflection, vagabonds that whistle and grunt before they return to the earth by way of a trillion fragile raindrops. The birds surrender themselves to you, limited as they are by their capacity for flight. They cannot fly forever. No glide runs eternal. Even the sun must set. 

Today you are the ground, the lush terracotta in the hands of artisans, the bedrock shifting beneath the weight of a million footsteps. You are felt when you tremble. Fear and anxiety have long taken root in your heart, thrust deep where man is most vulnerable, uneasy in its nakedness, in its passing articulations and gestures of freedom, mindful of its predicament of standing at the mercy of its spectators. You are the hills and mountains that wall the virgin landscape against the advance of time and urban decay at the cost of isolation. You are beautiful, but you are an object of grace without having anyone to witness your glory. For you, perfection is a lonely business. You are waging a protracted war in the name of aesthetics with no casualty other than yourself for you are your own friend and foe. Above all, you are gravity. You pull back whoever wishes to escape, planting them back to their origins because things should fall in their place all the time. 

Tomorrow you will be yourself. November is April lost in December, a warm embrace on a cold and weary night, and yet you must appreciate the breeze. Without it, the warmth of a hug loses its meaning. In the interim, appreciate all. Like the wind that scatters the leaves and the clouds, like the whisper that grants voice to the seeds of the little arcane truths that you hold dear, the love that you have is a poem. It writes itself. It moves unseen. It declares itself before an unsuspecting audience. It cannot be contained in a chamber as volatile and violent as the human heart. These, because you are the union of the earth and the universe, periodically divorced by the pulse that gives life to you, a miracle born to a flesh destined to age without knowing why, a soul having found freedom beyond the placenta, nascent with tender feet that tread wherever innocence is yet to appropriate a name for itself. Your innocence is pure, calm as the full moon shedding its light on the summer shores, chaste like the petals dancing to the rhythm of the early monsoon. Unfortunately, age corrupts. 

Grow older. Wait and learn the erudition of sages four years or more into college, but let it not coalesce with the charm of your humility. To do otherwise is to live a life wrought with danger, a life built on appearances for the sake of having a face for a name, for a reputation that you only owe to yourself. A diploma is only as good as a passport for employment. Do not fool yourself. You are one in millions of graduates who have it, and a certificate — even a title, an appendage at the end or start of your name — will not make you more unique and brilliant than others. On the contrary, those who do not have it are not the strangers. Bared of its academic merit, it is a piece of paper no better than the one you use to wipe your ass with. A title is a word that does not create messiahs. There is more to school than earning grades and titles. There are lessons in the classroom and there are lessons in life, some readily present while others you have to wait. Life, they say, is the biggest school. It makes perfect sense. You only get to graduate by the time you are dead. Your graduation ceremony is your funeral, and you will be awarded with a death certificate, just like your forebears who thought that the world is a Gordian knot eager for Occam’s razor. 

The wait has ended. The bus has arrived, its headlights piercing through the thick black. Uncoil yourself from your reverie. The past is the present waiting to happen tomorrow, or so you would like to believe. Believe in nothing and take the ride home. Leave heavy thoughts behind. Travel light. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Cyber Middleclass, Cyber Middle Finger

The cybercrime prevention law is — in the words of those who, by force of habit or by habit of force, hide behind the mist of jargon — draconian. In dictionary terms, it is extremely harsh. It professes to secure the wide wired world by defining online crimes, by reinforcing the criminal aspect of libel, by imposing more severe penalties, and it does so at the expense of our basic right to freedom of speech. It damns one by damning all, and it is wont to not give a damn. 

In the aftermath of the passage of the law, three things come to mind: junk, defy, and amend. The call to defy the cybercrime prevention law and the call to junk the same are two different things. In the first place, defiance of the law permits its continued existence, for if there is no law there is nothing to defy. Let the law stand, and let the people in turn defy it. Like massive cock, or big male chicken, in mouth, this course of action is hard to swallow. Although it has the pretense of protesting the law, it nonetheless accedes to the curtailment of certain rights, specifically that of the freedom of speech. It is a position that tolerates pointless adventurism all in the name of testing legal limits. It does not bother to uproot the law, at least not primarily, precisely because it necessitates the law that it is supposed to disobey.

On the other hand, the call to junk the law is what its phrasing clearly demands, which is to banish the cybercrime prevention law, no more and no less. Make that rubbish return from whence it came. Refuse receipt and ship the full package back to its sender. Let it not see the light of day again so that we can breathe a little more in what is left of this elbow room called democratic space.

Still, there are those who want to bargain for amendments. Place the law before the guillotine and let the blade slice the neck, but spare the rest because a headless body might still have a pulse and live forever. The problem is that the law tries to field a gamut of crimes under one roof. It is a hodgepodge of proscriptions, a congressional Frankenstein riddled with a malicious design reminiscent of an Orwellian nightmare. Ladies and gentlemen, witness before you this unmistakable wisdom of the legislature, passed under the auspices of an unmistakably venerable president. We want to remove select provisions just to make it a little bit palatable when it should be clear by now that the prime defect of the law is its very existence. It sends a chilling effect to our rights, our freedoms, and anything less than its complete nullification is organic fertilizer.

What is most frightening, though, is that there are people who want the law to be retained as it currently stands, and they chastise those who think otherwise. The crux of their banter is this: hate speech is not protected speech. The freedom of expression, they say, is not absolute. It demands responsible exercise from the one who wields it. Well, those are all cute and good, except that the arguments are not really what lexicographers may dub as arguments. They are truisms. It is beyond debate that hate speech is not protected speech, that freedom of expression is not absolute, and that there is such a thing as the responsible exercise of our freedoms. But all these things presuppose that one is even allowed to freely speak in the first place. Where speech is heavily restricted by an omniscient and omnipresent government, the distinction between hate speech and protected speech becomes illusory. Freedom of expression is not absolute, but where one cannot even open one’s mouth to say what one thinks, the freedom is reduced into a privilege available only to bootlickers who spew rainbows from their orifice. There is such a thing as the responsible exercise of our freedoms, but where one finds it troublesome to even exercise those freedoms, the responsible exercise of the same becomes no more than a museum piece.

In the larger scheme, the recent tide of sentiments against the cybercrime prevention law reflects the kind of class consciousness that permeates social networks. People swiftly turned prissy the moment that monster of a law was let loose. People voiced, or typed, their anger with urgent dispatch. To be fair, it can be the natural response of one who finds a stimulus too grotesque, too horrendous that it must be met with animosity, with staunch opposition, sometimes with middle finger in tow. That may be understandable. However, there is one thing that is not.

Which is this: there are online posts, too, about extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, about people losing their homes, in some cases their lives, in the wake of a demolition job, about farmers at the mercy of deceptive agrarian reforms, about laborers mauled to crimson and violet, gagged so as to cease with their cries for minimum wage, posts of these varieties that litter cyberspace, and yet the same degree of vehemence one would expect from what has recently become an angry mob of online citizens is nowhere to be found. There is silence, pure and unadulterated silence, as though our internet bandwidth, or conscience, if there is any difference, cannot be bothered, not even with a simple share or repost, or a mere like, not the least a comment.

There is one way to demystify that guilty silence. Our class consciousness gravely neuters not only our capacity to recognize monumental injustices done in broad daylight, more so those committed in the dead of the night, but also our capacity to act upon them. We are unwilling to risk tea time, or our teabags, all indications of pun intended, in favor of integrating with the basic masses so as to be able to understand their conditions because we treat our temporal comforts as far more precious. And since we find comfort in social networks, anything that threatens it automatically becomes a subject of our spite. We share nothing, not even sympathy, with the landless farmers barely able to feed themselves, certainly not with the victims of human rights abuses in the countryside, but we share, in every sense of the word, everything with everyone else on social networks, where and what we ate at what time, photos notwithstanding, even our most mundane sentiments, or our pointless qualms, questions like why the internet speed is too slow, or why people keep on sending you game requests about a virtual farm that cannot even add to our food supply, or why there are people who cannot have for an ambition losing twenty pounds of their ego instead of their fat, or why people cannot resist the urge to “photoshop” themselves to kingdom come dot com.

But that is giving too much credit where too much of the same is not even due. The disenchantment that the revolution is online is at the mercy of an electricity socket. To those who have an acute allergy to metaphors and to those breed of yellow apologists who want to tape their navels to public coffers, fuck you is the simplest phrase to put it.

I love this country. Here we have a senator who is everyone’s favorite uncle, whose brazen acts tell you he is beholden to a president and never the people, a senator of one landlord and not of the country, one who will take the bullets and ire for a president because goddamn he probably thinks it is his constitutional duty to do so, apart from legislating morality, one who is a perennial comedian so confused he can no longer distinguish his head from his ass. And he is not even trying to be funny, at least not yet.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Stranger’s Ritual

Use beer as your excuse for fooling around. It is and has always been your ticket to redemption. Pretend that you are drunk, languishing in feigned trance, when you already have your hands on the girl, the beneficiary of that third bottle of chilled golden poison, financed by a wallet that has undoubtedly seen better days when the world was still a happier place to puke away your wages on someone’s foot — all in the name of getting laid, the closest cousin of desperation in these desperate times — and then completely ignore your friends when they bid you adieu for the night. They are about to leave the infamous watering hole but your modus operandi forbids you to notice them. Friendly competition is tricky business. You do not want to see them. You do not want to hear them call you. You are busy being busy about being busy. Besides, you have already rehearsed your alibi for their questions tomorrow: it was the beer, you had an erection inside those tight jeans at the time, and you just wanted a good fuck before calling it a night. The Sacred Heart of Jesus knows that’s all you wanted. They can ask all the questions the following day, but certainly not this evening. So if liquors can be convicted, they would be the first in line to take that single trip to the death chamber. The alcohol is the culprit, or so you would like people to think.

Try to massage the hands of the girl and send all the wrong signals for a one-night stand, which, in the language of promiscuity, is utter catastrophe waiting to happen. She’ll pretend to take the bait. She’ll wonder how in Oprah’s name it is possible for you to see yourself as someone who deserves all the women in the world simply by turning them drunk, too drunk in fact that it is practically rape you are belaboring at the behest of your angry bird. Of course, some women, like some men, drink the drink to get nailed, but certainly not by one who badly needs a bath by the first sign of rain, or anything that can wash away an anomalous odor that properly belongs to the sewers. It’s as if you exhumed a carcass that you want to drag wherever you go so that the world will know each time that the boss has arrived. It’s your concept of a royal announcement by way of scent.

Slowly, gently, reassuringly with each pressure, you channel your libido through your fingers, the masseuse that you have now become, hoping that they will somehow find their way into the lady’s pants by the end of the night. Do not think for one moment that the people around you do not know what you are doing. Kid, they can see your arm crawl its way up her back with amateur stealth and poor calculation, much to the chagrin of the unwilling witnesses to this ridiculous and sorry affair, spectators whose spines melt at the sight of the unbearable horror. You are not invisible, your hands most of all. It is only in movies where naiveté can be an invisibility shield for things better left unseen. Please keep in mind that your life is not a French film. And if ever it was one, no one is willing to watch it, especially if the only French the audience knows is croissant. It is a sad day for the human race each time a man confuses his raging hormones as divine energy that must be unloaded through the urethra and carted up the fallopian tubes where it will never see the light of day in the next nine months. My apologies go to the urethra, the fallopian tubes most of all, for having been dragged into this monologue.

It’s not romance when you simply make the hands roam the flesh. It’s just roaming. It’s human touch devoid of human affection. It’s just spreading the germs on your fingers without the faintest sign of guilt. It’s an abomination, a clear prelude to a heartless orgasm, an insemination that knows no love, no tenderness, only an assault on the genitals that are forever at the mercy of your lustful whims. It’s vanity in its exponential form. And yet you have the gall to speak of love as though your tongue is tied to your heart.

On a sweltering summer night, flex your biceps as you unbutton your tweed jacket that hasn’t been to the laundry after thirty days of sweat. Screw comfort when you can have fashion fuckyeahhashtag hipsters rule or whatever. Your black undershirt is wet at the armpits, which are now host to alien life forms that science has yet to discover, some unknown species clinging to those unkempt hairs that need to be raked than combed a thousand times over. For that, you owe the vanguards of science an explanation. For that, too, you owe the girl an answer. You missed her question because you were too engrossed over your biceps, the form, the hardness, as their veins pulsate with apparent rage that blood is sure to squirt out of them any moment you suffer a laceration. Suddenly, she gives you a favor by sticking a fork on your biceps. She drags the three prongs down to your elbow. You suffer a laceration and bleed like a heart suddenly freed from the arteries that have held it captive.

If you think this is all about you, you are probably right. Now if only you can choke on your own dick — but that would be asking too much for a cock that is most probably the size of a stubborn wart.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Three Shades of Disposable Love

Or why there is no such thing as free lunch.


I thought the world was round, or oblique spheroid. With an empty bottle of beer on one hand and her sweaty forehead on the other, the lady at the bar said that the world is flat contrary to popular belief, which is not always popular, unlike her, young and beautiful and sexy on stilettos and drunk as a thirsty Irish, her breasts magnanimous enough to bare half of their splendid bulk, the cleavage deep for professional spelunking, the perfect recipe for fame and all things worthy of television airtime on any given Thursday midnight after payday, like the murder of five high school virgins in an urban Catholic school, their cadavers by the creek, the relatives of the victims receiving justice neatly sealed in a white envelope with three checks inside and a written threat, beseeching their silence or forever they will bask in it;

or the incestuous affair between two promiscuous sisters who wish that an ordinary mortal take the stead of their senator father perennially absent at home, and whose only legacy in his entire career as an elected joke is having proposed a bill once and only once and still got rejected outright, much to his surprise and frustration, especially since it was his earnest desire to put an end to political dynasties even if it meant dragging the rest of the government down the dirt and muck;

and prostitutes galore in obscure and dark places where hands reach under the table if the price is right, the genitals seized without warning and practically anything that has a pulse, warm and sometimes moist like underarms left to bake into a crisp tangerine under the sun because it is normal to be close enough to being brown, or tan, in a country of brown people, even if the people themselves want to become whiter than snow with the aid of God and soap and lotion, or whiter than the pale ass of their president when placed suspended under the natural fluorescence of any decent lamp, like the lamp hanging above our heads, casting little dancing shadows beneath us as I smile and laugh at all the gibberish nonsense she was saying. So the world is flat, I agreed, thrice to make my point firmer and my disposition resolute as I battle a stiff cock in my jeans. I took her home by the end of the night, and I took her hard between the thighs.

By morning, she was gone, the light of dawn shining on the side of the bed where her naked and tired body should have been, and the world was flatter than before, my wallet most of all. I don’t even remember her name.


“Just for old times’ sake, please?” I pleaded with a voice weak and trembling, as shameless and as desperate as my proposal. “I swear this will be our last and I’ll never bother you again, ever.”

Tanya moved away and stood by the window where the moonlight drew the silhouette of her body on her white satin dress. The ring on her finger briefly sparkled like a star in her room, that little space in the cosmos where the universe outside did not matter because she only needed four walls to feel alive even if it meant having to pay monthly rent, the veranda that jutted out ten floors above the earth the only sign that she was now above everyone who were less than ten floors closer to the sky.

I stepped closer, closer until I was right behind her, until I could smell the scent of her hair, until my chin could touch her shoulder, until my fingers could slide down her arms and plant themselves on her hips, until I could kiss her nape, my tongue dipping itself on her skin like smooth butter, and I undressed her like I have never undressed her before. She turned to face me and suddenly the bulging manhood in my pants wanted to break free, to push itself inside her, to force itself through her love tunnel with as much violence as she can handle, and explode inside her womb like a simultaneous big bang and supernova that waited for more than a billion years to elapse, the beginning and end in unchaste unity.

She gently pushed me aside, gestured that I sit on the bed, and she walked toward her dresser where she placed her ring. Now her fingers were immaculate again, like the first time my lips breached her innocence by suckling on her pinky ten years and twenty pounds ago, back when the professor was not looking and all of our classmates did not give a single fuck because a person’s life in college, the late onset of puberty above all, is just his own business.

She was looking at my eyes while she slowly walked closer to the edge of the bed. We didn’t say a word. And then she sat by my side, slid her right hand inside my pants, fondled my erection, and may God have mercy on my throbbing dick. “I want this,” she whispered.

“It’s all yours,” I said.

She unzipped my pants and in a moment I was all skin. She mounted herself on me, and all I could see was how her hair fell in disarray on her face, her hands gripping mine, her body moving forward, backward, forward, and backward again, each thrust accompanied by her moans calling out the name of her husband who was in Kuwait at the time searching for oil, until the seconds turned into minutes, fifteen or twenty, I lost count, our bodies entangled, perspiring. And then she came, her orgasm, that sweet momentary bliss that you wish would never end. But she ended hers right after she had it. She dismounted, and I was left on my own, still with a full erection to satiate and an orgasm that was yet to happen.

She stood, grabbed a towel, and wore her ring back on her finger. “Get out before I phone your wife,” she said.


My neighbor’s wife died a day before he did. She was his Juliet and he was her Romeo, both old folks, except that he waited for a day before he decided to follow her to the grave. Between those final hours of his life, he must have mulled deeply whether it truly is death that can only make them part. He must have finally been able to give voice to all the suspicions he suppressed all the while. He loved her when she was still alive, but he felt uncertainty when she was already a corpse, forever gone to cancer, all fifty years of their happy marriage suddenly placed under the mercy of a question mark and the afterthoughts that followed fifty years too late. When she was finally gone, he must have had all the chances in his life to prosecute his doubts without keeling from any guilt for hurting her feelings. The dead can’t defend themselves, he was sure.

Like the time when he worked a thousand miles away from home for three months and she would never answer any one of his five letters, or the time when he would be home earlier than usual and not find her in the house until she came later in the afternoon a few minutes before his duties would usually end in the office, or the time when she got pregnant when he knew that he was completely impotent for the last twenty years in his life, or the time when she said she lost the fetus in her womb, an accident she never wanted to happen, an unwanted abortion. But like all secrets, even doubts must go to the grave.

He took his own life, anyway. Ultimately, it was futile to resolve his doubts now that she’s in the coffin. He may be able to find the answers, but they would be answers that no longer mean anything, like revelations that signify nothing. It would be an insignificant triumph, a fleeting episode of victory with no one else to boast and celebrate it with. He’d rather die with a riddled mind than live another day trying to enjoy his meaningless discoveries of her imagined infidelities.

He hanged himself at the backyard.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Case 5: You

[Last part of the "Fiction Rebel" series]


YOU ARE NEITHER the miracle of the universe nor the gift of god to mankind. You are simply the child of your father and mother, the fruit of the night they put the flesh to good use at the price of an overnight stay in a motel when half of the city is asleep. Now that you’re an adult, do not think that you are at the helm of everything. You are not in command of the world. Rather, you are at its mercy, an underling waiting to be fed by the spoils of other people’s little triumphs in life. It’s a distressing fate, but nobody said you will be born in a manger and grow to be the savior of the nations, a crown of thorns to grace your divine head and a golden scepter to bless your tired hands. You will be nailed many times over, however, and that is all. That’s the closest you will ever be to becoming a messiah. In twitter context, you are just a hashtag floating without a keyword.

You aspire for greatness because you are not anywhere near it, at least not yet. You try to bridge the gap but you keep it to yourself. You’re not the only one doing the same thing. This is the earth, mortal, home to more than a billion dreamers, so don’t act as if you are surprised. If at all you land squarely where the treasure lies, do not let one, two, or even a thousand trophies get in the way of a little humility. Fortune favors the brave, but blind ambition destroys the ambitious until not even his ambition is left. Nobody wants to be remembered as the person who won the race but made enemies along the way, unless you are Hitler. You are not Hitler. You are just a Grammar Nazi, a speck of dust in the literary world who can easily be swept aside by the weight of sheer semiotics, never to surface again in any book, not even as a footnote.

Do not think for a moment that you are the sui generis of all sui generis. You are Dick, and your delusion lacks the fitting adjective to bring it to the plains of human comprehension. Fix your nose first before you fix the rest of the world. You’ve been warned.


You were fooled once, or you thought you were fooled only once. You easily trust people and things you’ve only known briefly, surrendering your life to whoever is bold enough to claim it for as long as they desire. Your conscience is clean, your heart more so, and you speak of purity as if you live it. You do, or you’ve tried, except that you’ve had your momentary suspicions trumping your confidence. No doubt you’ve had your mistakes. The measures you did to rectify them explain why you always see yourself as a clean slate after much reverie. You put too much thought into your life. But no one hears your musings of forever, of tender sentiments that echo the name of the one who owns it at a given time, because you prefer solitude each time you need someone who will listen.

Your belief in intelligent design suggests that there is an intelligent designer, someone whose genius includes the human body where the anus sits very close to the genitals, so close they could almost breathe each other if they had a nose. It’s like the sewerage is built right beside your home entertainment system. It is true that everything has its function, including your belief in intelligent design, and even your veneration of cows. Without it, Krishna will be rolling in the deep, probably chasing pavements, someone like you, and you’re not even Adele. Your faith in it has made you what you are: gullible but firm in your disposition. You are easy to sway, but you will stick to anything, or anyone, until you’ve realized that enough is enough.

Monica, my dear, you are already old enough to even pretend that you are still a teenager. Your life was once a mess. You’ve cleaned-up everything before you, and now you need to stop repeating the same errors before your life does. You owe it to yourself.


You know you’re a liar because you have a ready excuse for each deception. But you never call it a lie. You call it selective exposition, careful declaration, or other terms for hogwash you can conjure. You only say half of the truth because to your heart and mind that is all that matters — half of everything. It’s better than nothing, so you say. The world will not stop revolving around the sun with just half of what it knows. Besides, what it does not know will not make it suffer, either. You champion the idea that ignorance is bliss, especially if it is ignorance others retain and it is bliss you gain. If you cannot find refuge in an expedient story, your protocol is to feign silence as if you’ve heard nothing and, finally, to interject a random question that has nothing to do with the conversation. Escape is always close, your words smooth as an alibi.

But if all else fails, you reduce yourself into tears. You cry and cry until you fall asleep, or until the guilt that should have been yours is now the responsibility of the accuser. You turn the tables, which is your way of raising your objection, a demurrer to an indefensible accusation, and leave it that way.

You think your style is suave, immune from being exposed as a scam. You think you can always get away with anything. You think no one will ever notice. But right from the start, you forgot that there is a reason why they call you the Hooligan. Your reputation precedes you. You are as bad as you can be, and you’re the only one denying it.


On a dreary evening, you begin to think that the moon shines between your knees. You think heaven is where your head is and the boundary between Italy and France is where your feet are, carefully traipsing that other side of the world you’ve only known through cheap wine and spaghetti. You think that the sky will readily clear itself of clouds whenever you want to witness the light from the stars afar, only to discover darkness across the universe because this is one of the nights perpetually ruined by your lack of desire to open your eyes. You want them shut tight. There is not much to see in the shadows anyway, not even yourself, for it is dark and there is little left of you. You are alone, a lonely soul in a tragic world of lonely people.

By morning, you think the sun will never burn your skin, so you take all the pleasure you can get from basking directly under its fiery glow. You bathe the sunshine as if it is the last dawn you will ever have. Then you start to suffer a burning sensation close to your bones, and for once you realize how life itself can make you feel most vulnerable simply by being alive, completely helpless under the majestic star that will continue to shower its flames in the distance long after you are gone.

You are Jane, and you have the right to write your obituary one of these days. You will make the impossible happen as if it is the most normal thing in the world.


You are one or two or all of them, and you are nameless. Says John, “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together,” and says again, “I am the eggman. They are the eggmen,” until finally, “I am the walrus.”

Part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Case 4: Jane

[Part 4 of the "Fiction Rebel" series]


I WRITE OBITUARIES for a living. In a world where people die on a daily basis, orders from clients to publicize their grief come as swiftly as they bury their dead and collect their inheritance. They finance their declaration of mourning in print media with nary a sign of hesitation as though the earth suddenly closes its ears to these people left in unspeakable desolation each time someone’s eyes close for eternity. Maybe they are consumed by the idea that their proclamation of despair can only be given justice by newspapers where the words have voices loud enough for the living to hear. Or maybe they are inspired by the thought that sympathy is too infectious the readers will eventually march their way to whichever funeral their footsteps will lead them to while dragging a heart so heavy they can almost step on it as they walk. Perhaps I will never be deprived of condolences to pen. Death has more than a billion names patiently waiting in line before they are finally engraved on marble. I work hard on weekdays and even harder on weekends so that someday I’ll have the money to pay for my own entry in the obituaries. I’ll have my name in the papers by the time I’m ready to enjoy my well-deserved eternal holiday, ensconced in a place where the muteness is unending and the earth is warmer than usual.


Life is sad, especially when you live alone, sleep alone, and wake-up in the morning so that you can continue your routine of working for the dead. I stopped studying right after my second year in college and decided to get a job. Fortunately, I found one advertised in the papers, tried my luck, and now I’ve been writing the names of the dead for the last two years.

During my job interview, there was only one question:

“Jane Mojica, eighteen from Laguna. You studied Food Technology for two years. So what makes you think I’ll hire a woman to write the obituaries when you’re better-off writing about fancy dinner, if not cooking one, perhaps a sandwich for your man?”

I swear I could have stabbed him with my pencil. He certainly lives up to his name — Dick. When I looked at him, half in disbelief and half out of restraining my hands from grabbing my pencil, I thought I saw a nose somewhere on his face. I was not quite sure he had one. I thought how in the world is this asshole able to breathe? At that moment, I wanted to punch two holes above his lips with my pencil so that he can finally have a nose to show the world. But I let the thought pass.

“Well, my parents died a year after my younger brother did. My family is from Baguio, but we transferred to Laguna after my grandparents died there. We lived at my uncle’s house, father’s only brother. And then my uncle died just two months after we moved in. Another two years and malaria took my brother, my father after a year because of heart attack, and then my mother after three months. You can say that there’s death wherever I go. I’m the last of my kind. Call me like that movie, The Last of the Mojicans. If you’re after experience, my life is my résumé, sir.”

“Very well,” Dick said.

And that was it. I nailed the job although I couldn’t believe it at first. Maybe Dick had no other choice but to approve the sole application for the only position in the office that no one took seriously. But as it turned out, there is more to obituaries than just dead people.


The obituaries section of any newspaper is fertile ground for people who indulge in travesty. If you are famous, others will say you deserve a space there when you are dead, as if it is a throne you must necessarily inherit when you have been reduced into a corpse, a blotter in the papers announcing that the king is dead, so long live the king. To say the least, I find it ridiculous and obnoxious. If you are famous and dead, there is a good chance that everyone already knows you are just that: famous and dead.

I reckon the main reason why others still do it to icons good or evil is this: it’s a statement calculated not only to unravel social connections but also to reinforce these bonds, for even in death the long shadow of ancient feudal societies continue to persist like severe trauma, a seemingly cureless affliction that propagates itself through human memory. Here, commiseration finds its raison d’etre, the very guise it takes form, which is the reaffirmation of the archetype that death will hardly blur the lines that bind one bureaucrat with another, one public figure with the rest of his kind, cadavers and all, for as long as the people are made to remember. Worse, even audacious commoners may try to secure their association with the departed as a gesture of recognizing their impoverished status and, as a corollary, of endorsing their selves for acceptance in the legion through the tacit approval of those seated in the circle of power. This, I think, is the hideous face of association through commiseration. Man’s thirst for ambition cannot be quenched. It grips them by the neck.

There can be different names across different vernaculars for the same banana. In the case of those whose only claim to fame is having been able to live an honorable life, others will try to milk their name for what it is worth. Some people are willing to pay the publishers of newspapers just to snag that opportunity to polish their egos with the luster radiating from the reputation of these dead ambassadors of human virtues. They hope that the prestige in character of the departed will somehow rub itself onto them. I understand that people never get tired of massaging their self-esteem, especially if they want to keep it alive.

You may say that I am a conduit to this abomination at the cost of monthly wages just a little above minimum. You are right.


The first time I met Monica, I confessed how lonely I was. It’s not that I needed a man so that I can finally become happy. Honestly, women do not need men — that is certain. Happiness knows no sexual orientation. Above all, happiness isn’t all about sex, although a certain part of it is. For one, the vagina is not necessarily made for the penis, and vice versa. For another, heterosexuality is a remnant of the dark ages that has been deconstructed countless of times it no longer means anything today other than promiscuity. I’m not a lesbian, though. I just needed someone, or something. Any other object would have been equally fine, not necessarily dildos. Pleasure and happiness are different sides of the same coin, but they are different just the same.

When Monica introduced us to each other, he must’ve thought he was so bad ass he could use a plate of barbed wires for lunch and a cup of rusty nails for dessert. He said he got the stitches across his shoulders from a car accident, which is why he no longer had his car. I easily doubted he ever had one in his life.

He thought he is tough, and I thought I’ll test up to what point his machismo will refuse to break. I was lonely, and he was the perfect subject for my little experiment, the guinea pig with eight stitches across his shoulders.

Part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Case 3: The Hooligan

[Part 3 of the "Fiction Rebel" series]


I WANTED to wring my heart dry after I read the note Jane taped on my mirror the following morning:

“I dream of writing about a love that is so old yet so alive I can almost smell the fragrance of the words that give it life and immortality. I want to write it as if the story is ours, each day a page to see us through, pen in my hand inking our lives in this delicate dance of paper and poetry where the rules are never clear and the music is always changing. I want to write it with verbs that will make the world sail away from its axis because the universe has no shoreline where we can dock a ship as big and as restless as the earth, or perhaps our hearts. I want to write it with nouns that can name all that is yet to be known so that we may never claim innocence again. I want to write it with adjectives that will bless our days with the hand of a merciful god. I want to write it.

But ours is none of it. All we’ve had is a relationship so young but so dead it begs for the shovel, the casket, and the grave — assuming it even deserves a funeral. I’d rather let it waste like a corpse under the sun. So I will not bother. Like cold water is to raging fire, so is this note for the last day of what could have been the rest of our lives. Goodbye is too kind a word. It gives hope for a possible return when there will never be one. Consider this our death certificate. Congratulations, and may you live old enough to wallow in misery for a lifetime.”

That was it, all thirteen months squeezed down to a single note. On that bright Sunday, the crumpled linen sheet on the mattress was the only evidence that another warm body slept there with me for the last of all wonderful nights and the first of all cold summer evenings that will surely follow. For the first time, breakfast was a date with an empty chair and three slices of bread.


They say that the folly of humanity is that we always try to find meaning in words we do not even understand — like love. We want to feel it, touch it, and taste every letter of the word as if that is all there is to do in life, a last supper we all desire to have, and yet we fail to notice it when it hits us the first time. We think we know love, but truth be told, we have no idea. Sometimes we assume that it’s not there, only to find out when it has already slipped through our fingers like water that it was there all along. And when we suppose that it is there, that all signs point to it, we make a fatal mistake. All of a sudden, our ego turns flat, like a deflated wheel rubbing hard against concrete, possibly bemoaning its existence if it had life. It’s horrendous. It’s embarrassing. It’s like a nightmare that some of us will take days, weeks, and even years, to awaken from. Some have even been known to have never opened their eyes again.

When I first met Jane, I was twenty-three with eight stitches across my shoulders, and she was twenty with five published short stories listed in her résumé, three at a nondescript magazine, and two in her blog. A common friend, Monica — well, we’ve had sex once, but that was it — introduced us to one another at the restaurant where she was working. Monica had the impression that my meeting with Jane was part of a grand scheme, like intelligent design. I never cared. The hell do I care? Jane was hot, and that’s all that mattered at the time.

On the second week, I told her I love her and asked her if she loves me just the same. “I think I do,” she said. She thought she did, but she had no idea.

The feeling was mutual, though.


I couldn’t count the number of times I lied to her. If I had to pay her a hundred pesos for each lie that I said, she would have probably been rich by then and she would no longer have to wait for the names of the dead each day just for her to write obituaries for a living. I told her once that I do not own a gun, that I have never been to prison because of theft, and that I have never killed a young man in my life. When she was about to leave me on the fifth month that we were living together, I told her that I love her, and I said it with conviction that I cried and cried until I fell asleep in her arms, the moon my silent witness to a great hoax, the truth of which will hardly climb from my heart and find its way to my lips.

Except that, the morning after, she told me the one phrase I kept on mumbling the whole time I was asleep, dreaming.

“What did I say?” I asked.

“What a pain in the ass.”


Once we were in bed completely naked. “The only thing now standing between you and me is your erection,” she said, coyly. I smiled and gave her a gentle thrust. I felt her nails dig against my back with each push that I gave. She locked her legs around my hips, our eyes squinting, our bodies moving in unison with only the sound from the radio to muffle all the ceremonial noise. Suddenly, I moaned another woman’s name while she simultaneously moaned another man’s name. We stopped moving as we found our selves consumed by our silence and the music from the radio. It was probably the longest moment of quiet between us since the invention of verbal language. But we pretended not to care and went on with dinner.

From that day, it became our habit to hold our mouth shut and keep our moans to our selves lest we ruin our orgasm. Soon, it became our routine to close our eyes and act as if we were having sex in the dark, completely unaware of the face of the one we were actually making love with, and imagining it was someone else. Later, we decided to just switch the lights off so that we can have sex with our eyes open.


It was on the twelfth month when our relationship barely had a vital sign. It was in comatose. Not even a million prayers could have lifted it away from its impending demise. Kisses were no longer given as if it was the last thing one can expect from our lips, and sex became a tedious task, like office work that pays spare change. She slept on the couch, I slept on the floor, and nobody slept on the bed, except for the neighbor’s cat from time to time. But even life breeds on death. Plants grow on dead wood, maggots mature with the help of rotten flesh, and many carnivores that roam the earth feed on their lifeless prey. If what we had was dead, whatever it was, I began to found renewed strength in it, something I couldn’t quite explain well. I wanted to feel it, touch it, and taste it as if that is all there is to do in life, a last supper I desire to have.

But she wrote her note by the thirteenth month and life was never the same again.

Part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

Monday, May 14, 2012

Case 2: Monica

[Part 2 of the "Fiction Rebel" series]

MONICA BELIEVES that there is intelligent design in everything. Take for example the napkin conspicuously wedged between her vagina and underwear just two days ago. Its design prevents blood from seeping out sideways, especially when she has to scuttle clearing one table to another so that more people could pretend to enjoy the steak severed from the rib of a malnourished cow that was rarely given the chance to munch grass when it still had a pulse. For a Hindu like Monica, the sacrilege is unforgivable. But dead livestock aside, the napkin is almost godsend for a waitress like her. It’s a divine creation meant to comfort every woman where she is most vulnerable and strongest at the same time, which, of course, is the vagina, except for one curiosity: unless she sends her napkin flying straight to the garbage bin like a shuttle that carries the weight of her menstruation, its wings, though, just won’t make it airborne. One might even say it’s a fatal flaw for an object that was never intended for sustained flight in the first place.

But Monica firmly believes in intelligent design, and at the exact moment she flung the bloody napkin across Dick’s living room, which eventually landed squarely on his face with an auspicious splat, she anticipated that it was also designed to end their quarrel and, ultimately, their relationship. She was right. She drew the first blood, and it was the last time Dick would ever claim proximity to her vaginal discharge. If anger had a scent, a color, a taste, that was it, a month’s worth of frustrated egg cell together with its fluids tucked in a disposable sheet, and Dick was in the right place and time to receive that final touchdown.

The day Monica first met Dick she instantly knew that the world is unfair, unkind, that God or Krishna is bent on playing divine jokes by giving a man a nose so flat you’ll hardly know it’s there on his face unless you press your thumb against it the way you earnestly stamp your thumb mark on paper. She looked at him and thought: that face is too ugly. It’s too damn awful whoever owns it probably doesn’t deserve a name. But she called him by his name anyway because of two things. One, she can’t bear the incorrigible humor of God, or Krishna, at the expense of a mortal who only wants to have steak for lunch. And two, he deserves his name.

Here’s your steak, Dick. Enjoy your meal. The name on his ID is a dead giveaway. That was the first time she called him by his name, and it felt like she just mouthed a word she’ll someday regret saying. The second to the tenth time she called him by his name was when they were in bed on a late Tuesday night somewhere in Quezon City, a place so clean and so good you don’t have to wear anything other than your skin and a slippery piece of rubber that you put on like a diving suit during bouts of either anxiety or infidelity. Oh God, Dick, harder! She would issue her moans like a virgin too tight for anything that occupies space and has weight. Of course, she was deflowered years before she met him. Her acrobatics and moans were simply for the show, for that dosage of mercy fuck she was willing to give him, the poor bastard with almost a nose, so that he can finally call himself a man who no longer uses his right hand for an improvised vagina. She was his dream made flesh, the redemption for his restless manhood, and he was her reality check.

For three months, they lived together in his apartment, a room too small for a man with a huge ego and a woman with an insatiable fetish for the backdoor. But theirs was the proof that domesticating a Hindu and a Grammar Nazi under the same roof can be done amicably. It was the closest to polite society they can get. Without sounding too pedantic Monica declared that these things easily qualify for intelligent design. There is a God out there whose name is Krishna or Jesus or whatever, and that this omnipotent deity can make India and Germany look like husband and wife blessed in matrimonial union by the church of scientology or whatever you call organized mafias that have money in banks and want more of it out of your pocket because they know heaven is on their side and hell is just below your feet.

On the fifth day of their fourth month, Monica realized that hell was no longer below her feet. When Dick came home drunk that evening with kiss marks on his neck and a missing condom in his wallet, Monica herself raised hell right inside their room, or what will soon no longer become their room, for she was determined to abandon this wretched foggy once and for all but not without a fight, or probably not without sending him first to his sarcophagus after slitting his belly open with a penknife so that his innards can finally inherit the warmth of the earth together with the maggots, for that was how much she wanted him dead just by screaming at him: Go to hell! Never mind the neighbors; they have their turn to go to hell one of these days, or nights.

Enough is enough, Monica thought. Thank God for bloody napkins with wings. She put her hands inside her shorts, fished out her napkin, and turned it into a projectile. Before Dick could dodge, it was already touchdown.

Part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Case 1: Dick

[Part 1 of the "Fiction Rebel" series]

AT TWO in the afternoon, he is at his watering hole. Three sips after and the beer still tastes nothing magical, nothing exciting. It’s like the usual drink of the pub overlord sitting at the bar, he who is too obese you wish he’s kind enough to donate a plate of his fat to Nicole Richie for the benefit of mankind, the suicidal creep at the corner offering a toast with the perennial hipster whose idea of fashion is wearing a thick jacket whenever the weather is too hot we might as well complain about having a sun in our solar system, the posh Strunks and Whites at the long table who think that grammar is everything and that thinking about it goes well with fancy cookies and fancier coffees and teas that need to be immortalized in pictures because let’s face it people want to let other people know that they are the shit who make other people look like they are in a state of eternal poverty with their Rambbo slippers, they who wear the Grammar Nazi insignia as though Hitler will be smiling from his grave, or whatever you call people who scribble words on just about anything that looks and feels like paper, even on the one they use to wipe their ass with not quite like sandpaper, perhaps the Philippine Daily Inquirer, particularly the obituaries because the dead can kiss my ass and never complain.

He is one of them, the Aryans of the written world. Let’s give him a name. Let’s give him a name because pronouns are gender insensitive and overrated, like religion. Let’s call him Dick. So Dick chugs his beer and strikes a matchstick on a summer day. He believes that the first step to end all of the world’s problems is to light his cigarette. All the rest will simply follow. But the wind is strong. Now if only he could light that fucking cigarette at two in the afternoon in that watering hole.

Dick gets a book from his bag but closes it even before he could finish leafing through the third page. Dick will think. He will think hard, too hard. He will device the postulate of perfection. He starts by striking a pose — chin resting on left hand, his stare lost somewhere in the distance as his head is tilted just a little bit to the left as if someone nudged his nape with a loaf of freshly baked bread — then takes a picture of his gesture and uploads it on mobile Facebook. This becomes his profile picture. He will label it “the postulate of perfection personified” and hit the like button three times to make sure that he gets his point across the internet. A thought comes to his mind: I’m too perfect even my balls dangle at a right angle. He returns to his book.

Dick thinks that the novel is not impressive, not knowing that it was not really made to impress anyone, him most of all, simply because it’s not a novel. It’s a thesaurus, the bible and Achilles’ heel of the inner synonym freaks among the Grammar Nazis who walk the plains of the earth in their hunt for that wild species of beast called the “passivius sentencius,” more commonly known to your average high school student as the passive sentence. It’s too late for Dick to realize this. His thickly framed eyeglasses with no grade offered no succor to his severely deflated ego. He tries to wash away the pain with beer but he only gets to release a shrill burp that rippled across the room as if all his pent-up angst suddenly found the missing hole in his body — his mouth, the other end of that physiological brook that is forever linked with the asshole.

Dick overhears the conversation at the next table. They are talking about his favorite book of all time, Ricky Martin’s Youth, Career, and the Whole Shebang. His thought bubble: finally, vengeance is mine! But Dick starts to lose his patience. It’s not what the book is about, cretins, Dick surmised. He has this delusion that he always knows better, or that he is never wrong. Having read a hundred or so books in a year, his brain already has the weight of an obscure library where obscure writers go in order to write obscure shit nobody really reads, not even obscurely. Still, Dick may have a point: what’s the use of being the postulate of perfection if you can’t even correct strangers within the reach of an uppercut? So our hero decides to straighten their shibboleth, their raucous drivel, by writing them a note.

Dick writes in posthaste, polishes his lead sentence like a shoe that will somehow in some way fit a foot somewhere, and wraps his literary diarrhea with a title that really says what he does not mean. But he stops no sooner than after he began for he knows that even verbosity is always at the mercy of a humble punctuation mark. He stands and makes his exit, each stride as heavy as the mass of Hitler’s mustache set aside throughout his lifetime.

Part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Goat in the Shell

[Last part of the "Sketches of Kitsch" series]

LOOKING BACK, life in prison was never that bad. I have managed to hold on to my soap tight and refuse to bend over just to pick it up every time it falls on the floor. Danny, that poor fellow from down south who was convicted of raping a goat — But Billy was asking for it! he would say before sliding into the sheets of his concrete bed, the cold hard floor, not knowing that it isn’t really a crime to take a goat from behind after milking it in the middle of the rice field in front of his deaf landlord — he dropped the soap many times, picked it up with both hands each chance he had, and he never walked the same way again. He said he loved it even if it might make a cripple out of him one of these days, and he would not hesitate to drop all bars of soap in the world and get on both knees first thing in the morning for his breakfast. My legs shall be my crutches, he once said while taking a bath with the rest of the inmates, and dropped his soap with much enthusiasm his smile revealed the tartars on his teeth while the early sunlight shone on his dark gums. In a way, I miss Danny. Fuck the police! he cried out loud. The chief was not pleased at the sight of his wide open ass and shot him three times from behind with his service firearm, the blood shooting out of his manhole like a geyser and turning the yellowish tiles on the bathroom floor into a sea of crimson until his lifeless body was hauled into a bag and brought somewhere I do not know. I reckon it must be a place where there is no soap. But life in prison was never that bad, and now that freedom is mine the world is officially my oyster. Or perhaps soon.

“Jesus Christ, Robert, shoot the fucking soldiers!”

“Christ, yes! Yes! What was I thinking?” Of course, I was thinking of my mother but I couldn’t tell Frank the truth when I should be aiming at the soldiers and shooting them down with my rifle even if we were outnumbered ten to one. I often wonder about mother ever since I was sent to jail for raping a prostitute in our slum. Say it, say it, I commanded, and she whimpered Oh god oh god before laughing and kicking me on the groins and running away with her panties down to find help. My mother never said a word after the conviction, and to this day I still contemplate about what she has been doing with her life, or whether she is still alive at all, living in our house, that heap of garbage, graced day and night by Lito Lapid’s splendid mustache.

“Move left! Move left!” Frank shouted. We moved left, fifteen of us, and sought refuge inside a tea shop, the sweltering noon raging outside as the bullets continued to fly in our direction, breaking the glass windows and turning them into a thousand shards. I wanted to have myself a nice cold glass of tea with some fancy name but I turned the thought down because nobody drinks tea as a pretense of sulking in bourgeois comfort right smack in the middle of a heavy gunfight when the country is busy with its bloody revolution. I peered at a hole by the chair I used as a shield and saw the armed men from a distance of a hundred meters or so, lining up into a squad as they began their slow approach to where we were. At that moment, I thought of the thousand other prisoners in every jail in the country suddenly released from authoritarian captivity and given guns to fire against all symbols of the state: policemen, soldiers, politicians, and just about anything that moves and is part of the government payroll. My first casualty was the prison chief who shot Danny in the asshole. Suck my cock! I screamed at his ears before I stepped on his face with my boots and shot him on his forehead. And then I said, as if in prayer, In memory of Danny and the goat that was the ultimate cause of his misery and joy in jail, the empty shells of my bullets shall count the ways in which vengeance shall be yours. And then I laughed so hard I could not help but fart.

“Move out! Take the back door!” Frank commanded, and in a minute we scurried like rats being chased by a bunch of pussies out of the tea shop, into the street, close to the bend in the highway. Back door, I mumbled, and the image of Danny on his knees flashed before my eyes. There was a sudden silence, an unexpected ceasefire. But it was momentary. There was a gunshot, and another shot, and then another, and then six or seven more. “There! There!” I screamed, and all fifteen of us made our way to where I pointed at. Right across the street was the coffee shop and the lady who just fainted on the floor, her red stilettos failing to save her from whatever it was that she was afraid of.

I kicked the bolted door open and hurried inside. It wasn’t the best garrison in the eastern world or the best room to have coffee while being in the middle of an insurrection. Otherwise you might easily die at the cost of an overrated Frappuccino.

“Shit, there are more of them coming!”


“Left side!”

Three military trucks full of heavily armed soldiers stopped and deployed a battalion. One of them ran toward where we were — a willing martyr who forgot to wear his brain, I thought — and fired at will. I aimed my rifle at him, an easy target, and pulled the trigger once, twice, thrice, son of a bitch the gun won’t fire! Then I felt a stinging pain in my head. When I woke up, my professor was staring at me with that crude grimace on his face. He was clutching his fan with much force I can see the veins pulsating against the skin of his left arm.

“David you idiot, time’s up and you aren’t even halfway done with your exam!”

Shit, I fell asleep and couldn’t even win an insurrection, I thought.

“Did you forget to wear your brain again?” Professor Arthur had that furious look. At that moment, I just wanted to vanish and die at the cost of an overrated Frappuccino. But I decided to get out of the room and accept my fate; Applied Physics isn’t my cup of tea, and my cup of tea will never have pearls and milk on it.

I took a jeepney ride. I had to walk the rest of the mile for up ahead there was a military checkpoint and the sound of bullets being fired from afar echoed and rippled in the air.

Part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Life in the City of Gods

[Part 4 of the "Sketches of Kitsch" series]

THERE IS NOT MUCH to see on this side of the country except the face of poverty — grim, like the wrinkled folds around the eyes of the senile resigned to their fate, earnestly praying for the emissary of death to fetch them in haste in their final bid to die with little dignity and a wooden coffin for their graves — and how almost a decade of the iron hand of the city mayor merely nursed the flurry of violence, drawing out blood and tears from those who know nothing more than the cryptic affliction they call survival, or whatever it is that turns sickly but pious folks into suburban mercenaries waging their personal wars against hunger, they who pierce the flesh of the unfortunate women and men with their knives until the victims breathe their last, their emaciated limbs left to commune with the elements in the dead of the night, the river nearby their transitory tomb from where the perennial troubadours of these filthy waters would retrieve their idle bodies later as if they were floating markers for wayward boats that find their way in this forgotten territory by some stroke of misfortune, modest vessels colliding against these buoys made of carcass and maggots and flies, the petty sailors fishing them out with nets and poles, their arms akimbo as they leer at them, triumphant as though they have just had the day’s worth of their harvest long before the sun could meet the eastern horizon in such an unholy place where the people are their own gods. Sacrilege is the least of their worries. They have the rest of their lives and innumerable sins to burn in this hellhole.

I used to live in a house, if one may call it a house, a few feet behind the thick walls of the largest shopping mall in the city. My girlfriend, my former girlfriend to be specific, called it a heap of garbage one day and never returned. The only thing that makes that heap of garbage stand on the ground is my mother’s nightly prayer in front of the makeshift altar of cardboard, tin cans, and Lito Lapid’s movie poster where his mustache glimmers like a beacon amidst foggy terrain and goons clad in leather jacket. As far as I can remember, my mother was never religious, except on two occasions. The first was when I was still a little boy, probably four, and I heard mother calling out oh god oh god in the middle of the night while father was on top of her pumping like a jackhammer, or some kind of machine that groans and moans, runs out of fuel after thirty minutes, and tells you you can now open your eyes son as if it was the last sentence that must be said before going to bed. The second was that day when the demolition men began to hammer their way through the overgrowth of perhaps more cardboard than they have ever seen in their life. My mother and I were lucky enough to escape with our clothes intact and luckier still to be able to return later in the evening when the police were long gone, the rubble the only reminder that they ever set foot there, and when our neighbors were slowly rebuilding their paper houses using rusty nails and tapes and whatever adhesive they had, except their precious rugby. In our place, nobody really uses it for anything except for sniffing. One of our neighbors once said god made the world in seven days and was kind enough to create rugby for our insatiable nostrils. When mother and I found the spot on the muddy ground where our house used to struggle in a limbo, there was not much left, save for Lito Lapid’s poster, the only inheritance left by my father before twenty stabs took him away two years ago. The poster was on the ground, wet and muddy, and yet Lito Lapid’s mustache seemed to have defied all that atrocity, as if it was invulnerable to any kind of shaving blade. By the following day, we had our miserable house nailed back to its original position as though nothing happened, only that our house looked more miserable than before. That day, too, mother learned to pray the rosary in front of Lito Lapid whose face, perhaps, is the spitting image of god. He intones salvation upon her. I can tell by the way she wipes it day and night with my old underwear, the only thing that reminds me of the demolition.

There was a job at a construction site and I was barely thirteen. Take it, my mother said. I did, and for the next four months my mother and I had something warm to put on our plate, no longer the occasional restaurant leftovers and the usual shellfish I hack off the submerged stones by the pier. Those were good days. I could eat whatever I want, and I only wanted sardines, those headless mackerels that have no one else to blame but their selves for squeezing themselves inside a small can of red soup when there is a whole ocean out there waiting for them. By the time the building was more than halfway done, I got into a fight with one of the workers. I wanted to put holes in his head with the iron rod but it was a good thing that the others were able to separate us and tell us that we can take our fight outside because they still needed the iron rod. That was the last day I was hired, and the warm mackerels soon stopped filling our plates. Maybe they have finally grown their heads and are now in the ocean.

One very late night I was taking a brief stroll in one of the alleys that led to the innards of the slum where I live. I was on my way home and the beer tasted as good as the other nights. A little ahead I saw a woman. By the time I was in front of her, I took her by the hand, that nameless prostitute, and I had her naked in less than a minute. Say it, say it, I ordered her, the tip of my ice pick against her luscious neck, my prick on her thigh, and she did. Oh god oh god, she whimpered like a prisoner in full submission, cowering in a dark corner where I was fucking her the way my father fucked my mother. But she laughed, and laughed, and laughed some more. That day on, I learned the meaning of erection, and what prison feels like when you can barely afford a lawyer to defend you for your lust.

Part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Her Stilettos Did Not Save Her

[Part 3 of the "Sketches of Kitsch" series]

MELISSA WAILED at the sight of Vinci — or what used to be Vinci, a two-month old Shitzu now reduced into splattered internal organs and bloodied fur — on the street in front of the university chapel. Pedestrians and onlookers watched her sulk in agony, strangers who were no more than terrified at the dead brute. She cried as if she was now a widow who was destined to inherit nothing more than a little dog soon in rigor mortis and the vaccination papers whose sole function now is to remind her that a puppy named Vinci once came into her hands as easily as David swiped his credit card, which was an extension of his mother’s VISA. Melissa did not know what to do with a fifteen-thousand peso dog lying dead on warm concrete, so she decided to call David and inform him of the sad spectacle.

“Speak mortal,” he said on the other end of the line, “or forever keep your silence.” She could hear him catch his breath. It somehow annoyed her for a while.

“Vinci is dead,” gasped Melissa, her voice partly hoarse. “He’s been run over. Poor Vinci, my poor little dog.” She burst into tears. Again.

Melissa waited for his voice and the words that will soothe her, calm her, like balm on badly wounded flesh. Nothing else was said at the other end, only panting, a sequence of heavy breathing, the occasional chatter of students going their way, and the crunch of heavy footsteps on gravel and dry leaves.

“Get me a new one, David,” Melissa intoned, “I can’t stand not having another puppy. It’s tearing my heart to bits.” She tried to sob to drive her point.

A stranger who took pity on Vinci, dead as a rock, tried to approach Melissa. In an effort to console her, the stranger attempted to strike a conversation while Melissa sought David’s sympathy over the phone. Melissa noticed the stranger, but she instinctively turned her back before the other person could open her mouth.

“You know how the girls will treat me,” Melissa continued, her tears now starting to dry up. “Without a puppy of my own, God David, you know it’s like so nakakahiya for me.”

The stranger suddenly exploded in a fit of laughter and started to walk away. Melissa turned to face the stranger and confront her for the disrespect, the misplaced comedy, the insult she thought she does not deserve, the palm of her free hand ready to land on the stranger’s cheek, but Melissa saw she was now all by herself, alone on the side of the road with a dead dog and clueless as to where she is supposed to go. She thought of iced coffee, of all things, and her mind could almost taste the sweet blend pushing down her throat.

“Fine. If you won’t say anything, let’s meet later na lang instead. I’ll have to go na and buy some Starbucks to comfort me.” And so without bidding David adieu, Melissa hailed a taxi that wheeled over Vinci’s cracked little skull before it stopped in front of her. Inside the cab, she wiped the sweat around her neck with a tissue and asked the driver to turn the air-conditioning one level higher, for outside the heat grew more intense, the early afternoon breeze nowhere to brush through the leaves and twigs. The taxi swerved to the left until it passed the southern gate, immediately pressing through the highway traffic that has begun to turn moderately heavy, all the vehicles caught in smoke and heat and the occasional wayward pedestrian jaywalking wherever the road provided enough opening to hurry through.

Melissa tried to recall what happened. To her, it was just another ordinary walk with Vinci in tow, his leash tugging him back, holding him in safe distance, keeping him from straying away where she could see neither him nor his furry white ears. She held the leash as tight as she could, and her grip could not have been any stronger, what with her skinny limbs touted to rule the world of anorexic socialites where everything is spoken in the language of largesse. But the intersection proved to be fateful. Her grip could not have possible prevented the leash from slipping off her hand when a man on a bike suddenly, unexpectedly hit her wrist. The bicycle was moving too fast down the slope that leveled at the crossroad. The force of the contact was hard enough to cause her to inadvertently let go of Vinci’s leash. In a split second, the little Shitzu scampered away, leaving Melissa running after the dog even if her red stilettos slowed and weighed her down.

The man did not even stop to apologize, she mused to herself.

“Nandito na po tayo, ma’am,” the taxi driver quipped, his baritone voice stirring Melissa back to life. She paid the fare and stepped out of the cab like a regal actress about to strut down the red carpet. As she walked toward the coffee shop, there were no cameras, no media personnel to capture her presence on tape and interview her for the rest of the hour. In fact, there was no one else around her. The shop was closed, its only door for entry and exit bolted thrice. Even the nearby stores seemed to vigil in complete silence.

Melissa looked around, her pouted lips trying to find someone to point at, to blame at the unannounced desertion of those who were supposed to comfort her in times like this. She walked further, farther, fuming mad and uncontrollably sweating amidst the hellish and sweltering inconvenience she was now in.

She thought she heard a gunshot, but she dismissed the idea. And then she thought she heard another shot, and then another, and then six or seven more. She stopped and tried to walk back, afraid of what was beyond the bend in the highway.

That was when she saw it. She fainted on the street, dropping knees first. Her stilettos did not save her.

Part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5